Hot Springs and Warm Hearts

By: Zero_Starlight

Chapter 1: A Little Too Enthusiastic, I think...

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over Solatorobo Red the Hunter or any characters that appear in said game. All characters, places, names, items, etc. etc. belong to their respective owners. ENJOY!

I groaned as I examined the engine of the Asmodeus, and once again wished that we had the rings to purchase, at the very least, some replacement parts for the old girl.

"You OK, Drake?" A voice called, and I felt my lips turn up in a grin as I turned my gaze to face Chocolat. I felt a blush tint my fur as I looked at the young Caninu. She wore her regular garb, the navy blue flight suit matching well with her naturally pink hair, her aviator goggles resting on their accompanying cap as she mischievously gazed down at me. "You look like crap, by the way."

"Just wishing your brother wasn't leaving us hemorrhaging rings all the time." I teased, before looking myself up and down, noting with a hint of embarrassment that I was covered in grime, oil and sweat, the former two from the rust bucket I was forced to call an engine, the latter from my not unsubstantial, and somewhat frantic, attempts to keep the thing running. "And hey, you want to take a turn trying to keep this thing running then by my tail, go right ahead."

"Yeah, yeah, and then I wouldn't have a reason to keep you around. Red and Elh deserve to be able spend a little alone time together after everything that's happened, right? Now come on, you've been down here for hours; you've certainly earned your break." She grinned and turned, her tail waving behind her, and I sighed, calling after her in mock exasperation.

"Admit it! You just can't go a day without my rugged good looks and charm!"

The Asmodeus' bridge was, as usual, immaculate. But being that this was Chocolat's domain, it wasn't much of a surprise. She rarely ever let anyone in here unless it was business, so the panoramic, blast-hardened glass that made up much of the front of the Asmodeus never ceased to amaze, and on occasion, terrify me as the puffs of condensed water sped by as we flew on to some destination or another.

"So... when are Red and Elh getting back?" I asked quietly, plopping down beside Chocolat, who leaned against me with a smile as we both stared out through the window, watching the occasional ship pass in the distance.

"Well..." Chocolat tapped her chin with a claw, "They were going for a week, but considering what Red has done for everyone and the storm scheduled to go through there, the manager gave them an extra week free."

"So long as I get to relax with you, I'm happy." I grinned, a brilliant idea forming in my mind.

"What are you planning, you sly Caninu?" Chocolat asked, giving me a suspicious look even as she cuddled even closer to me.

"What say you to a trip to Mau?" I replied with a grin, already pulling myself up and stopping by the door, waiting for her response.

Chocolat giggled, taking her seat at the helm, "Now I know your planning something!"

"I told you! You can't resist the Drake charm!" I called back as I headed for my small cabin, grinning as the wisps of an idea quickly began to come together. Charlie still owed me; perhaps it was time to cash in that favor...

"Drake..." Chocolat began, before turning to stare at me with an unimpressed look on her face.

"Uh... That's not a look of surprised satisfaction, now is it? Huh, didn't think that would come into play..." I began to sweat nervously under the gaze of my girlfriend.

"You know we can't afford a place like this." She stated, pointedly directing my gaze to the prices listed outside the building. "I thought, considering how you were complaining that Red's been wasting rings-" She paused and frowned as I laughed.

"Oh, is that all? I thought you were upset about my surprise, not the price." I took her hand as I dragged her inside. "You should know by now, no price is too great for my girl." I muttered under my breath to her as to not attract the wrath of the Felineko at the reception desk, "Though they came pretty damn close to it..." Chocolat giggled, momentarily forgetting the monetary issue.

"Drake, you little sky punk! Good to see you, good to see you! You better not be complaining about the deal I cut you, it was practically skyway robbery, and you know it!" Charlie said from beside me, and for a moment I wondered if passing on that life insurance policy Elh had offered at one point had been the best choice as the muscular Felineko manager of the establishment dragged me and Chocolat into a tight hug.

"C-Charlie-" I began, my white fur beginning to turn blue, followed by purple, and I wondered which might kill me first, the lack of air, the furious pounding of my adrenaline high heart, or a crushed trachea. "Need... air!"

"Woops! Sorry little buddy, guess I just don't know my own strength!" He let out a deep, booming laugh and released the death grip on both of us. "Let me just speak with Maralyne for a moment, and then we'll get you all set up." With that, he made his way to the receptionist, both seemingly oblivious to the two Caninu gasping for breath on the floor.

"Some surprise so far, Drake." Chocolat said, giving me a disgruntled look.

I quickly felt the nervous sweat making an encore appearance. "Uh..." I began, "At least it couldn't get any-"

"NO. Just... don't even jinx it." Chocolat said, grinning half-heartedly and sighing.

I grinned sheepishly, still sweating.

'This is going to be a long day…'

Author's note: There you have it! Chapter 1 is done. I'll try to have it complete before the end of this week, but I make no promises! Until then though, review, share and follow, and I hope you enjoyed!